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Why attack Iran now?Given the recent spate of reports on Obama’s approval for the attack on Iran, it s a good time to ask what such an operation could accomplish?

The Bushehr reactor is up and running. No one is going to destroy an operational reactor loaded with 80 tons of HEU. And an attack on other nuclear sites would give Iran an excuse to reprocess  spent rods into plutonium instead of returning them to Russia.

Some of Iran’s HEU has been removed from its last known locations. It is highly unlikely that we would destroy all the stocks. Iran has also begun to move its nuclear-related equipment to bunkers.

Bombing the centrifuges is feasible, but what’s the point? Iran would easily be able to set up new centrifuges within two years. And after the first attack proves futile in the long run, assembling a coalition for a second raid would be problematic.
Destroying dual-use factories would serve no purpose, either. Flush with oil profits, Iran would soon rebuild them with more up-to-date technology.

Nor would the bombing of Iran stop the nuclear programs of North Korea and Pakistan. Both countries’ nuclear stockpiles are of unknown size and stored in unknown locations. Iran could easily procure its bomb from them, especially from the Pakistani military. That’s assuming that the four nuclear warheads missing from Ukraine are not already in Iran.

Any sensible plan for dealing with Iranian nukes would involve inciting armed rebellions by the Kurds, Jundallah, Azeris, and Afghan border tribes. But instead, the US helps Turkey to suppress the Kurds.

As for the operation itself, it should be relatively easy. The capabilities of Iran’s air defenses are grossly inflated; Iranian operators are notoriously inept at using reasonably capable Russian SAMs, and even those Israel can both jam electronically and saturate with multiple missile attacks. Besides, the CIA wouldn’t miss a chance to bribe Iranian generals in the same way the agency dealt with Saddam and Gadhafi.

One nice corollary of attacking Iran is that Israel would have to preemptively destroy the arsenals of Hamas and Hezbollah, and at least warn Syria. Assad won’t provoke NATO retaliation by attacking Israel to avenge Iran. He also remembers that Iran did not avenge the destruction of Assad’s nuclear program four years ago.

November 2011
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